May 19, 2017
I Got Shadowbanned From Instagram (and How I Got Unbanned)

I Got Shadowbanned From Instagram (and How I Got Unbanned)

May 19, 2017

Update [May 22, 2017]: I posted a picture this morning and did the hashtag test with my secondary account and it looks like my shadowban has been lifted (for now). I did everything I mentioned below and after a Friday-Sunday hiatus, I seem to be visible again. Good luck to anyone out there that is currently shadowbanned!

A few days ago, I posted a picture on Instagram. After about 30 minutes, I got back on Instagram and noticed that my most recent picture only had 6 likes after about half an hour which was totally not the norm. I knew something was up and with all the Instagram "shadowban" talk going around, I wanted to see if maybe I had indeed been shadowbanned.

WHAT IS AN INSTAGRAM SHADOWBAN?

Long story short... when you are shadowbanned, all the hashtags you use for your picture are pretty much useless. Let's say you use the hashtag #bucketlist for your picture. When you are shadowbanned, anyone not following you will not see your picture when they search #bucketlist on Instagram. Your picture will still show up for that hashtag for anyone following you, but that doesn't help you grow your audience and improve your engagement.

HOW TO CHECK TO SEE IF YOU HAVE BEEN SHADOWBANNED

First, you will notice a drop in your engagement. This is a big deal for anyone, like myself, trying to grow their Instagram. To see if you have been shadowbanned, post a picture using a fairly unique hashtag so you don't have to scroll through a lot of pictures to find it. After I suspected that I had been shadowbanned, I posted a picture with the hashtag #classicbigdoors. From your own account, search for that hashtag... you should be able to see your picture.


The next step involves either making another Instagram account or asking a friend with Instagram for help. I have another account that I barely use. I mainly use it to post "non-photography" type pictures so I switched over to that account and searched #classicbigdoors. Nothing. My picture was nowhere to be found. After a mini freak out, I confirmed that I had been shadowbanned. If you switch over to another account or plan on asking a friend to check for you, make sure to tell them to unfollow you first. Like I mentioned earlier, your followers will still see your picture even if you have been shadowbaned.   


Another way you can check your shadowban status is by using a tester website. I have read mixed reviews about these websites. Some say they are accurate, while others have reported that they are not 100% reliable. You can try it for yourself and see. Here is a popular tester website: Instagram Shadowban Tester. In my opinion, the only way to truly know if you have been shadowbanned is by doing the hashtag test with a buddy or another account. 

WHY DID INSTAGRAM SHADOWBAN ME?

I would like to know the answer to this question as well! 

There are many reasons why Instagram are shadowbanning accounts and some of them are justifiable. I know they are trying to get rid of bots and spam. But in the process, they are punishing real legit accounts and it seems like a lot of people have been affected. 

Some reasons why you have been Instagram shadowbanned include:

You have been using an app, software, or website that violates Instagram's terms of service. This includes using bots to gain likes and followers or using any type of automated tool to post on your behalf. Plain and simple, stay away from these types of apps and websites and never buy followers and likes! 

You have been using the same hashtags over and over again or using broken hashtags. If you're like me, you have a bunch of hashtags saved in your Notes app. Make sure you are mixing these up so you don't look spammy. Broken hashtags are another no no, there are the obvious inappropriate hashtags that everyone should not be using but then there are innocent hashtags like #kansas that gets blocked cause some inappropriate pictures were being tagged with it. This is why we can't have nice things! 

You have been repeatedly reported by other users. If you just have an angry ex that keeps reporting you out of spike, don't worry, that won't get you banned. Instagram will check to see if you have been violating any of their terms first, but if you are doing something you're not supposed to and are getting reported then you will get shadowbanned or worse, kicked off Instagram. 

Your Instagram activity exceeds the limit. Out of all the reasons out there, I think maybe I am guilty of this one. If you didn't know, there is a limit on how many likes, comments and follows/unfollows you can do per hour. They do this to crack down on bots. Rumor has it, your limit depends on your account but the general rule is don't exceed 150-200 likes, 60 comments, and 60 follow/unfollow per hour. We were super busy over Mother's Day weekend so I wasn't on social media that much except to post a few pictures from the beach and brunch. After everything was said and done and I finally had some time to check Instagram, I sort of went on a liking frenzy. Maybe that is what triggered my shadowban? Hard to believe I liked 150 pictures in an hour, but who knows. 

HOW TO GET UNSHADOWBANNED       

I am still working on this one. I have read numerous shadowban success stories so getting unshadowbanned can happen. It seems like what worked for one person, did not work for another and vice versa so it all depends on your situation and your account. You might need to do one or all of these suggested options below, it just depends. I read where someone got unbanned in 4 days, where another person is going on 6 months! Hopefully I'm more like the former. 

Revoke access to any applications that might be violating Instagram's terms of service. You have to do this on your desktop or laptop. Sign into your Instagram account from your desktop or laptop and then go to Edit Profile - Authorized Applications. There you will see a list of all applications that have permission to access your Instagram account. While I have never used an app to gain likes or followers, I did see a lot of apps that I totally forgot about and haven't used in years. To be on the safe side, I revoked almost everything except for Activate by Bloglovin' and SnapWidget. 

   
Report the issue to Instagram. People make mistakes and the solution could be as easy as letting Instagram know that they made one by shadowbanning you. I have sent in numerous reports to Instagram since I found out I was hit with the shadowban. Millions of people use Instagram, so it doesn't hurt to keep sending reports until your "voice" is heard. From your app, go to Settings - Report a Problem - Something Isn't Working, and let them know that your hashtags are not working. If you are using any sort of bot or automated website to post, you must remove that before reporting the issue to Instagram or else you are still violating their terms and they will definitely not remove your shadowban.   


Lay low for a few days. Staying off Instagram for 2-3 days have worked for a lot of users, especially if you are guilty of over-liking or over-commenting. This will give Instagram time to reset your account and remove the shadowban, plus you don't look spammy when you're not doing anything. Downside is that a lot of people depend on getting on Instagram to grow or maintain their engagement so not being active for a few days will definitely hurt that... but still being shadowbanned doesn't help either!

Other options I have heard or ways to prevent shadowbanning are:

- Deleting all broken hashtags in your previous posts (or all hashtags if that is easier)
- Switching your account from a business account to a personal one
- Posting your hashtags in the caption and not in the comments 
- Stop editing your pictures after you post them (leave your typo alone) 
- Not maxing out on all 30 hashtags and manually typing them in

So I have reported the issue to Instagram (3 times already) and removed all 3rd party applications except for a couple of legit ones, so now it's time to lay low for a few days. This will be the hardest part. I'm going to sign off today and I won't get back on again until Monday. Hopefully this will work and I can officially be unshadowbanned! Wish me luck!


Have you been shadowbanned as well? Were you able to get unbanned? Let me know below!  

Don't forget to follow along on social media!
Bloglovin' | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook

I am linking up with these link ups and blog hops!
May 15, 2017
The Last Supper and Scenes from Milan

The Last Supper and Scenes from Milan

May 15, 2017

While Milan might be best known for its fashion, one of the most famous attraction in the city (and one of the most famous paintings in the world) would have to be Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper. Before our trip, I really didn't know much about Milan. Lyndon and I aren't big shoppers (especially while on vacation), so I wasn't really excited about the retail scene. When I realized that The Last Supper was located in Milan, I knew immediately that we had to go see it. Getting tickets to The Last Supper is easier said than done. I read on multiple websites and blogs that you have to purchase tickets 3 months in advance. For example, the earliest available date with availability right now is August 2, 2017. So I went to the ticket website to see when tickets would be available for March and marked my calendar.

The day finally came... I woke up, went to work and got on my computer. We were only going to be in Milan for two days so I didn't have much to work with. I selected the first day we would be in Milan, sold out! I guess I should have set my alarm to wake me up with the rest of Europe! I was already behind living in the States. I selected the second day we would be in Milan and only 3 times slots were available. Hey that's better than nothing. You only get to spend 15 minutes with the famous mural and only 30 visitors are allowed per tour.

Since we would be coming in from Florence that day and I didn't want to leave Florence too early, I selected the latest time slot available, 3:30 PM. I selected two adults tickets and one child (which I think was free or heavily discounted) and proceeded to check out. Half way through this process, the website switched from English to Italian and I had no clue what I was doing and I didn't know how to switch it back. I was almost done checking out when I got an alert that said I needed to also purchase guided tours with our tickets. I only knew this because I copied the message into Google Translate. After adding the guided tours and somehow paying, I finally received a confirmation email... in Italian. I told Lyndon that there might be a chance I didn't do it right just to cover my bases.

The day finally came, our last full day in Italy. Our train arrived in Milan, we dropped off our bags at the hotel and immediately hopped into a taxi to the Santa Maria delle Grazie. I had all my confirmation emails printed out just in case there was an issue with our tickets. At this point, I still wasn't 100% sure we actually had tickets. We arrived at the ticket office and... we got our tickets! Sigh, now time to enjoy this amazing piece of art (and history).  

When it was our turn to see the mural, we had to enter through a series of doors. The front door couldn't open until the back one closed. The mural is super delicate and any help in keeping the elements and humidity out is a must. I have to say The Last Supper is super impressive. Even though a lot of critics are not fans of the most recent restoration efforts, citing that the colors and tones were drastically changed, it is still a beautiful piece of art. If you are ever in Milan, The Last Supper is a must see!

THE RUNDOWN:

Piazza di Santa Maria delle Grazie
20123 Milano, Italy

Tickets: Vivaticket
             

After our 15 minutes with The Last Supper, Aiden and I went walking around Milan. Lyndon would have joined us but his knee was really bothering him so he just sat on a bench and read his book. Not a far walk from the Santa Maria delle Grazie is Sforza Castle. The castle was built in the 14th century and was renovated and enlarged throughout history. Today the castle is home to several museums and art collections. Another beautiful building in Milan is the main railway station, Milano Centrale. Honestly, I think it's prettier than the castle and the church where The Last Supper is located. The architecture is beautiful and it doesn't even look like a train station. Our hotel was located right next to the station so we had the perfect view of the building. 

While I had mixed feelings about Milan after our first day, I got a better understanding of the city after our second day there. Some cities are meant to knock your socks off and some are just meant to be in the friend zone and that's okay. I live in a friend zone city. No one ever says "Let's go on vacation to Houston!" but it's the 4th largest city in the United States for a reason. We might not have The Last Supper or the Duomo but we do have our Galleria and Space Center Houston and J. J. Watt (he's pretty much a Houston landmark now). So Milan, while I didn't fall in love with you, I don't hate you. Maybe I'll see you again one day!   


What city do you have in your friend zone?

Don't forget to follow along on social media!
Bloglovin' | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook

I am linking up with these link ups and blog hops!
May 3, 2017
The Heart of Milan (and Mixed Feelings)

The Heart of Milan (and Mixed Feelings)

May 3, 2017

A while back, I received an email about cheap flights to Milan. While Milan was never high on my list of Italian cities to visit, the price was too hard to pass up plus it worked out perfectly with Aiden's spring break. So without a real itinerary in mind, we bought three round-trip tickets to the largest city in Italy, Milano. 

Milan is known for its fashion, high-end restaurants and shop, and is considered a financial hub. And before March, that was all I really knew about Milan. Since Lyndon and I are not really the "shopping type" and there were only a handful of attractions I wanted to see in the city, I only planned for us to stay in Milan for two days, the half day we arrived and the day before we flew back to Houston. Milan is a large city, and it definitely feels like it. There are skyscrapers (the company I work for developed one), high-rise residential buildings, shopping malls, and traffic, lots of traffic... everything that makes up a busy metropolitan. 

After arriving at Milan Linate, we took a taxi to our Airbnb. I really didn't know what to expect but one thing I did notice while driving around is that Milan has a lot of graffiti. Not the cool street mural graffiti, just the random defacing kind. Once we got closer to city center (and near all the touristy areas), I did see less of it though. Before our trip, I had a lot of people tell me that Milan reminds them of New York City or Paris. I don't know, those are two really big shoes to fill. It was love at first sight with both New York City and Paris where with Milan, we are still getting to know each other. It would be safe to say that I have mixed feelings about Milan. 

One thing I did love about the city is the Piazzo del Duomo. The Duomo di Milano is breathtaking. The Gothic architecture is simply amazing and I'm not surprised at all that it took nearly six centuries to complete. I remember walking up to the cathedral (from the side, not even from the famous front view) and thinking, wow, details for days! Right next to the Duomo is the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, one of the world's oldest shopping malls. It has the be one of the world's fanciest malls too, right? It's gorgeous and honestly, I don't even remember one store in there... I couldn't keep my eyes off the roof, the architecture, and the ironwork that is oh so satisfying to symmetry lovers like myself. Side note, like many areas in Italy (or any large city really), there were pigeons everywhere! I wanted to take a picture of Aiden running through some of the birds, but we found out that day that Aiden is afraid of pigeons (ha!).   

One thing we missed out on while at the Galleria was "spinning on the bull's balls". There's a mosaic of a dancing bull in the Galleria which marks where, legend has it, Giuseppe Mengoni (the architect that designed the Galleria) fell to his death, so people grind their heels on its balls for good luck. Yeah, just go with it.

When we came back to Milan at the end of our trip, we did see The Last Supper (which I'll write about next week) and we got to explore more of the city like Sforza Castle. So maybe, I was a little hard on Milan at the beginning... we'll see next week!  
           

Don't forget to follow along on social media!
Bloglovin' | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook

I am linking up with these link ups and blog hops!